10 ways to get started with web 2.0

I can hardly bear it, but I am, once more, at Earls Court in London this week, just two weeks after the London Book Fair. This time I’m on what, these days, feels more familiar home turf. I’m at Internet World.
There has been much talk of social media and web 2.0 in the sessions so far – more of which later. For now, a quick overview of what web 2.0 actually is, and how to get started with it – if you haven’t already. (And if not, why not?)
Here’s the history part. Most people know that the World Wide Web was invented by a Brit, Tim Berners-Lee, in 1990. Less well-known is that it was imagined long before by a guy called Vannevar Bush, in a 1945 essay called As We May Think. He imagined a system called the Memex, containing the sum total of human knowledge. In one essay he imagined the internet, hypertext, personal computers, speech recognition, digital cameras and online encyclopaedias like Wikipedia.
‘Web 2.0’, a phrase first popularised by O’Reilly Media in late 2004, is not really a new concept. There aren’t really even any ground-breaking new technologies – just new, more social, ways of using them – and greater bandwidth. It’s the web finally living up to Berners-Lee’s original vision of how people would connect and share information – and the early imaginings of Bush.
There is no absolute consensus on what web 2.0 is, but it might be thought of as:

  1. specific websitesFlickr, YouTube, del.icio.us, Technorati, MySpace, Facebook
  2. technologies – RSS, Ajax, APIs / mash-ups
  3. media types – podcasts, blogs, wikis, social networking, social bookmarking
  4. principles – particpation, democracy, community, tagging, reputation
  5. attitudes – trust in ‘people like me’ rather than companies and institutions

Here’s a brief video tutorial covering some further aspects of web 2.0.

Ten ways to get started with web 2.0 today:

  1. get Firefox – a true web 2.0 browser
  2. create a personalised homepage (e.g. Google, Yahoo). You see that link on the Google homepage that says ‘personalise this page’? Click it. You can then start adding personalised content like news feeds, blog feeds, calendars, weather reports, bookmarks, a Wikipedia or Babelfish searchbox, a satellite image of your house
  3. subscribe to some RSS feeds to add content to your homepage. In Firefox, you can do this simply by clicking the little orange button at the right hand side of the address bar of any site that has an RSS feed
  4. have a look at digg, and see how the ‘wisdom of crowds’ is the new editorial process for selecting front-page news
  5. get a profile on MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn
  6. sign up to Flickr, upload some photos – or have a look at mine
  7. sign up to del.icio.us and start bookmarking some sites
  8. look for some interesting blogs on Technorati
  9. download some podcasts from iTunes. They’re free, and you don’t even need an iPod.
  10. watch some videos on YouTube.

And finally: think about what all this means for creating, using and marketing your content in a web 2.0 world.
When you’ve done all that, I shall report back on some of the sessions from the conference. Which I must get back to now…

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Jon Reed

Jon Reed is a content writer, author, screenwriter, lecturer, blogger - and the founder of Publishing Talk. He was previously a publisher for 10 years. Publishing Talk aims to help new and emerging authors write, publish and sell books. Advice is available via the blog and our masterclasses and membership programme. More...